OLD AND ANTIQUE TURKMENIAN RUGS
The famous designs (much copied in Pakistan) resemble ancient designs dating back to the 5th century BC. Of all the applied arts practised in Turkmenia over the centuries, rug weaving showed the most perfection and achievement. One of the earliest documented references to these rugs (locally called "haly") belongs to the Italian explorer Marco Polo, who wrote in the 13th century of the "finest and most beautiful carpets made here"". Up to the mid-18th century, rugs were woven in tribal Turkenmia for use in the home, and as saddle-bags for horses and camels. It is only in this century that the production became organised into a kind of co-operative venture, and horizontal looms were replaced with the more advanced vertical ones. Since the time of the annexation of Turkmenia by Russia, the rugs have inspired great interest among Russian collectors and experts, and have represents Turkmenian art in numerous Soviet and international exhibitions. Old Turkmenian rugs are divided into similar groups as the new ones, described in the next section. Moreover, carpet bags were also widely made and are now very popular with collectors. These include Torbas, Hordjuns and Chvals. Torbas were used for carrying household goods (mainly kitchenware) during travel. They also had a high decorative value - ending with fringes they often display refined ornaments and colours. Hordjuns are double bags for saddle use which fold in the middle. They can be with or without pile and usually have fine ornaments. Chuvals are large carpet bags with strings on both sides, used inside the house for keeping clothing and other household goods. Of high decorative value, these wre sometimes made in pairs to hang across the entrance door (such as full pile "haly chuvals"). Others wre made with pile strips over pileless, white or red, kilim-like backgrounds. Completely pileless Chuvals are rare.
NEW RUGS FROM TURKMENIA
In terms of quality, there are a number of groups. The top group features Bukhara, Ensi and Pendi designs, with 280,000 to 340,000 knots per square metre. The middle group includes the Yomud design, with 200,000 to 230,000 knots. The bottom groups include Kizil-Ayak and Beshir designs, with 170,000 to 200,000 knots. Some rugs made to special order, particularly after the revolution, had reached 400,000 to 450,000 knots. Special thematic motives (such as welding processions) can be found in 18th and 19th century rugs too. Turkmenian rugs are more expensive than Caucasian, but they are the more exclusive too, with only a few thousand metres leaving the borders of the country each year. The most expensive among Turkmenian rugs are Bukhara, retaining their name from the times of the Bukhara Kingdom. A variation of the Bukhara rug, made in the town of Mary, is known under the name, and differs in that two wefts are used, around which a knot is tied. The Ensi type is different from the rest of Turkmenian rugs in that it is used as a doorway hanging, with its design reflecting that. The design is well determined, in two halves, with a wider border in the bottom half. They are woven in different parts of the republic, and can belong to the Bukhara, Yomud or Pendi groups (those of the latter group are particularly varied). Another carpet used for entrances is the Gapylyk, U-shaped, and with long,elaborate fringes hanging down from it. Special rugs were made for use on horses and camels, particularly in a wedding procession, such as Asmalyk, which adorned the camel saddle from both sides in a procession. The Pendi rugs are produced in the Esenguly region in the most South-Eastern part of Turkmenia. The field is of beautiful dark purple-brown shade. The "Gyoli" medallions are similar in outline to those in Bukharas, but are surrounded by "teeth". The "Gyoli" in Yomud rugs represent anchors. Kizil-Ayak rugs have traditionally been woven in the Eastern region of Kerki, but in the recent years the production has been organised around the western town of Nebit-Dag. They are characterised by star-like medallions. Beshir rugs are different from other Turkmenian designs, especially in their use of other colours, such as blue and yellow, alongside the traditional red, white and black. The red itself is of different shade, hinting pink. Characteristic for these carpets are busy geometrical, often "toothed" patterns, usually featuring leaves and plants.
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